Councilman Paul López likely to challenge Peg Perl in Denver clerk election

López has represented District 3, on the city’s west side, since 2007.
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Denver City Councilman Paul Lopez after a hearing on the “Public Safety Enforcement Priorities” ordinance, Aug. 28, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Councilman Paul López, one of the longest-serving members of Denver City Council, may run for a new office in 2019.

López has represented District 3, on the city's west side, since 2007. He is not allowed to run again due to term limits.

Instead, he said he is "seriously considering" filing to run for Denver's clerk-and-recorder position. His opponents would include Peg Perl, an ethics lawyer and policy consultant who declared her candidacy last year.

The job:

The clerk and recorder has one of the quietest but most important jobs in Denver. The office manages elections, government records, foreclosures, real-estate records, marriage licenses and more.

Debra Johnson, the current clerk, has decided to retire instead of seeking a third term.

City council member Paul Lopez at a press conference on actions that will limit the city’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities, Aug. 16, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
López's platform:

"I haven’t filed formally. I’m seriously considering getting in the race," López told Denverite on Friday afternoon.

López, 39, was a union and community organizer before winning his first council election at age 28. He said he would build a potential run for clerk-and-recorder office around social justice.

"There’s a powerful streak of social justice that’s inherent in the role, and I think we need to unlock it and continue to move it forward for everybody," he said. He named elections turnout as a top priority.

"Voter turnout in Denver, it’s much more than just technology and metrics. It’s about boots on the ground. It’s about having clipboards in hand. Voter turnout is hard work, and we have to develop a culture of participation in the city if we want people to come to the polls," he added.

He would consider fielding door-to-door teams to encourage voter registration, he said — something the office does not currently do, although they do already appear at community events. He also would seek to make records and information more accessible to the public.

However, it may be a while before López makes a final decision on the race, he said.

"I’m still a sitting council member. My duty is to my council district. When the time to campaign comes, I’ll be ready to campaign, but I still have a year and a half left of making sure that my district has the representation it deserves," he said.

Peg Perl. (Courtesy of Peg Perl)
Perl's platform:

This is Peg Perl's first run for elected office, but she's spent her career working with different levels of government. Between 2004 and 2010, she served as a policy attorney on the Federal Election Commission and then as advice and education counsel on the U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee.

More recently, she was senior counsel for the nonprofit Colorado Ethics Watch from 2012 to 2017 before founding Democracy TNG, a policy consultancy shop. Its focus includes elections, money in politics, open records and open meetings. (TNG stands for The Next Generation -- yes, like Star Trek, she says.)

"For the last 15 years, I’ve been focusing my legal career on government and aspects of how we can make government at the federal level and then at the state and local level more accessible to the people," Perl, 42, told Denverite on Friday.

"This particular job is the elected office where I feel I can continue that work for the people."

She said that one campaign focus would be on using technology to make Denver's government more transparent. For example, she said, officials' disclosures about campaign finance, lobbying and gifts are needlessly scattered across the local government's website.

"It still seems to me that different places in the office are operating at different levels of technology and transparency, and that the systems don’t talk to each other," she said.

"I really want to take a citizen-centered approach to how we provide information and how we link up all of the information that lives in the clerk and recorder’s office."

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